Popular Education for Social Change: An Economic Justice Teach-In at Agnes Scott College

This audio podcast is a concrete example of popular education for movement building and social change. As defined by the Highlander Research and Education Center: “Popular Education is a participatory process that combines people’s experiences to develop collective analysis and strategies for action for positive social change.”

 

This campaign has been “a long haul”, and we are continuing to “make the road while walking” (Myles Horton’s terms). The struggle for a true living wage is complex. For example, our dining hall staff are divided into Agnes Scott employees (Laborer’s International Union, with Facilities staff) and Aramark (four years unionized with SEIU). Aramark staff have four months a year with no work or pay as seasonal school employees in Georgia. For another example, our outsourced landscaping staff have zero sick days and greatly reduced vacation time with the new company. So there is a continued urgency to do this justice work. In addition to working on undoing structural oppression, the campaign has over the past 25 years founded an employee emergency fund and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses. Hourly staff and students are the core leaders of the movement, and any significant change is from their coalition work, along with support from community partners.

How do we educate at an institution that has as its mission statement: “AGNES SCOTT COLLEGE educates women to think deeply, live honorably and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times”? We in the living wage campaign take this mission seriously and stand with our colleagues to work for a just campus. In the words of one custodian: “I choose to stand and make a difference.”

On Feb. 16, 2018 (Founders’ Day at Agnes Scott) the Agnes Scott College Living Wage Campaign held an Economic Justice Teach-In to raise awareness, educate, and movement build. The Living Wage Campaign has three major focus points: just wages, institutional respect, and democratic workplace. We are a coalition of hourly staff, students, a few salaried staff and faculty, and fabulous community partners (Atlanta Jobs with Justice, the Teamsters, WRFG (Radio Free Georgia) Labor Forum, Project South, Atlanta 9-to-5, Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, and Faculty Forward).

Alumna and former ASC living wage campaign organizer Jillian Wells (2010) served as emcee for the hour and a half event. Another alumna activist, Helen Cox (2010), joined us and offered historical perspective. Dr. Nathan Grigsby, music director for the Joyful Noise Gospel Choir at ASC, brought two soloists to add music to our event. Zion Martin sang “You Are Good Medley” by Todd Galberth, and Victoria Wallace sang, “Rise Up” by Audra Day. Neil Sardana of Atlanta Jobs with Justice spoke, as well as Anne Olson (Human Rights Atlanta), student activists Emma Fischer and Kristina Kimball, and hourly staff.

For the full video of the teach-in click here:

At the event we celebrated the work of past activists: Della Spurley-Bell and Carrie Wells, co-founders of the first and oldest unionized facilities staff in the U.S. South. Hear the story of the union founding here (retired custodians Della Spurley-Bell and Maggie Ivy):

The first Living Wage video was made in 2007 by ASC alumna Mia Mingus, who worked at the time at SPARK: Reproductive Justice Now:

A few days before the teach-in, Della Spurley-Bell and Tina Pippin appeared on the WRFG Labor Forum and were interviewed by Diane Mathiowetz and Paul McLannan. A summary of the history and issues of the campaign are here:

Videos from our alumnae, faculty, and community supporters are here:


The Agnes Scott Living Wage Campaign can be found on social media:

 

Facebook alumnae group is Agnes Scott College: Living Honorably
Facebook page is ASC Living Wage
Twitter is @livingwageasc
Instagram is @asclivingwagecampaign

Septima Clark and the Citizenship Schools: Resources for the Podcast

 

http://www.highlandercenter.org/

A brief video on Highlanders’ popular education model:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsxVW0oXFvI&feature=youtu.be

Frank Adams with Myles Horton, Seeds of Fire: The Idea of Highlander (Blair, 1975).

Katherine Charron, Freedom’s Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark (UNC Press, 2009).

Septima Poinsette Clark and Cynthia Stokes Brown, Ready from Within: A First Person Narrative (Red Sea Press, 1990).

John M. Glen, Highlander: No Ordinary School (University of Tennessee Press, 1996).

Faith S. Holsaert, et al., eds., Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC (University of Illinois Press, 2012).

Patrisse-Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir (St. Martins Press, 2018).

Grace Jordan McFadden, “Septima P. Clark and the Struggle for Human Rights.” Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers 1941-1965. Ed. Vicki L. Crawford, Jacqueline Anne Rouse, and Barbara Woods. Bloomington: Indiana University Press (1993), pp. 85–97.

Lynne Olson, Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830-1970 (Scribner, 2012).

Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (UNC Press, 2005).

Sweet Honey in the Rock: http://sweethoneyintherock.org/

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, ed., How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective (Haymarket Books, 2017).

Chris Crass Podcast Part 2

In Part Two of our conversation Chris Crass talks about what activist/popular education and movement building mean for higher education. Chris is a co-founder of the Catalyst Project: Anti-Racism for Collective Liberation (https://collectiveliberation.org/) that offers political education and organizing support. He also discusses his commitment to dismantling patriarchy and misogyny (see his essay: http://thefeministwire.com/2013/06/against-patriarchy-tools-for-men-to-further-feminist-revolution/). Systemic change brings personal transformation. In these times of attacks on equity and racial justice, Chris discusses how to find hope in resilience and resistance. First step: to educate ourselves and show up for racial and gender justice. Chris reminds us: We are the 99%.

 

Seeds of Fire: An Interview with Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson and Rev. Allyn Maxfield-Steele

Rev. Allyn Maxfield-Steele & Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson

 

 

 

 

 

The Highlander Research and Education Center has been at the heart of popular education and social change. In 1932 Myles and Zilphia Horton, Don West, and others founded the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee as a place of cultural memory and organizing, participatory action research, and racial, economic, and environmental justice. Highlander has been causing beautiful trouble since its training of union leaders in the 1930s on, in its first interracial workshop in 1944, through its involvement in the civil rights movement and citizenship schools in the 1950s and 60s, and its support of movement building for groups working for justice and human rights in southern Appalachia and beyond.

In this podcast the two new co-executive directors of Highlander share their visions for the Center. They take us through the basics of popular education and the importance of communities defining “what is and what ought to be” in their local situations, while building coalitions with other resistance movements.